I was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 1998. I had surgery and chemotherapy. I've been doing fine until last month when my back started hurting. Is there a quick and easy way to find out if the cancer has come back? That's my biggest fear about this back pain.

A history of cancer does increase your risk for cancer recurrence. But before you jump to any conclusions, you're right to ask about some tests.

One blood test called the sed rate or ESR is helpful. The ESR measures how far red blood cells fall after one hour in a column of blood. The test can point to cancer or inflammatory conditions.

Another test can be done to look at an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. Increased amounts of this enzyme are found in the liver, gall bladder, intestines, and bone tissue with liver or bone disease.

Finally, a simple X-ray may be helpful. Changes in the bone don't always show up on X-ray with early cancer metastases. A bone scan may be needed.

Don't delay in getting a medical opinion. Early detection is still the key to the best results.